DiLacqua's mental approach pays off with big senior season

jdill@bradenton.comMarch 11, 2014 

BAYSHORE GARDENS -- Andrew DiLacqua doesn't focus on stats, even when they are pretty solid.

The senior center fielder takes that approach, because it helps him from pressing when going through a slump and keeps him from letting off the throttle when he's performing at a high level.

And this season, DiLacqua is excelling at IMG Academy.

"I could be hitting 1.000 or .100, I have no idea," said DiLacqua, who is hitting .478 this season with a .586 on-base percentage to lead the Ascenders in both categories among regular players.

"A lot of guys probably know what they are doing, but I don't look."

DiLacqua has grown up in Manatee County -- he lives in Lakewood Ranch with his family -- and played baseball at Out-of-Door Academy during his freshman season.

But seeing a better opportunity for exposure sent DiLacqua to IMG Academy, where past local players such as J.R. Murphy and Tyler Pastornicky turned their time at the private sports academy into professional careers.

"Before the season started, both of them came in and talked to us," DiLacqua said. "There were a couple other guys, too. A couple minor leaguers. ... Every one of them said, 'You've got to take advantage of what you've got here. It's not a normal high school.'"

DiLacqua is heading to Arizona State University next season after he signed with the Sun Devils last November. But that doesn't mean he's let off the gas this spring.

In fact, DiLacqua has churned out some impressive numbers.

That's due, in part, to his parents.

Being a local player at IMG's sprawling sports academy means John and Liz DiLacqua can watch their son play. And they videotape his per

formances, which helps Andrew in the long run.

The 18-year-old analyzes the tape and dissects it as if he were already a seasoned pro.

That diligence and dedication to the sport is what separates DiLacqua from most high school seniors.

"It gives him an edge, and you can tell he loves the game," IMG head coach Pete Paciorek said. "He's got a great family. Parents are terrific, very supportive. And I think that any edge you can get in this game, there's so much talent out there across the board and he's as talented as anybody, but any edge you can have in this game is going to give you that little advantage."

But DiLacqua isn't just a threat with his bat. He prides himself with the glove, marshalling IMG's outfield from center field.

When he was younger, he looked at Andruw Jones as a player he wanted to emulate. Now it's the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, Andrew McCutchen.

And no, it's not because both guys share the same first name as DiLacqua.

Both developed a knack for patrolling center field at a high level, noted by the Gold Gloves that each attained.

And with McCutchen, who plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound DiLacqua has had the chance to see him train in person.

McCutchen worked out at IMG Academy before the Pirates convening for the upcoming season, and DiLacqua said he's seen how relaxed McCutchen is out in the field.

"Everyone has the tools to play the game, but when you get to the higher levels, it's all mental," DiLacqua said.

That mental game is something DiLacqua has separated himself from the typical high school senior.

"He's been locked in and he hasn't wavered from that," Paciorek said. "He has an approach, he knows what it is (and) he sticks with it."

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